CyberDiary – 7 November 2010

Mating lions by Gareth Greensill

We’ve enjoyed yet another great week of sightings here at MalaMala, with highlights coming in the form of lions mating, leopards feeding and the return of the elusive cheetah. We also had a very unusual crocodile kill, and the first proper rains of the season.

We received an incredible 36mm in one downpour alone!

For the fiscally inclined among you, here are the number of sightings of each of the following animals for the past week: lion – 18; leopard – 15; elephant – 24; rhino – 22; buffalo – 17; cheetah – 2. The wild dog is still nowhere to be found.

We have also uploaded the unabridged game report as prepared by MalaMala’s rangers for the month of October. Click here to view the report.

Don’t forget that you can always refer to the Wildlife Sightings Maps for a more detailed look at what was seen where.

Enjoy!

Monday 1st October

We found an unidentified young female leopard on the Charleston and Flockfield boundary this morning. This area is not generally frequented by many leopards, making it the perfect haven for younger leopards intent on escaping the pressure imposed on them by their older and more dominant counterparts.

This youngster proved to be quite shy though, so we were only able to view her for a short time before she slunk off into some thick vegetation. Our guess is that she came across from the Kruger National Park with a view to possibly settling on MalaMala.

Tuesday 2nd November

Lions mating seems to have become a weekly occurrence here at MalaMala. Today we found the Manyelethi male lion with dark mane (the dominant male of the coalition) mating with one of the Styx lionesses.

It proved to be an exceptional sighting, with the female showing a lot of aggression. Copulation occurred every fifteen minutes or so, but whenever the male dismounted he had to make sure that he jumped well back in order to avoid being swiped by his eager lady friend.

On one occasion the lioness even chased after the male, and upon catching him gave him a good swat across the cheek. While this was going on, the rest of the Styx pride of lions (including the sub-adult male) were all found around Matshipiri Open area where they spent the majority of the morning sleeping.

When we spotted them again at lunchtime, they were on the opposite side of the river from Main Camp, and a long way from where we’d found them in the morning. This placed them back in the same area where we’d seen them stalking a herd of nyala on Sunday. They’d succeeded in getting very close to the nyala, but unfortunately once they ran in, the noisy reeds they were stalking through gave away their position.

After having missed out on that meal, the lions were clearly very hungry. Although that didn’t stop them from sleeping throughout the afternoon as well.

When we returned in the early evening we heard loud and aggressive feeding sounds emanating from the area. On closer inspection we discovered the Styx pride tearing into a recently caught adult female impala.

Wednesday 3rd November

We pinpointed the tracks of two leopards going up and down a road that runs alongside the Matshipiri River. From the sheer number of tracks on the road, we knew immediately that something was afoot. We drove into the dry river bed to investigate further, when instinct told us to look up into a large Jackalberry tree growing on the river bank.

It was the only large tree in the area, and once we got closer we were pleasantly surprised to find an adult female impala strewn across a branch midway up the tree.

We found the Matshipiri female leopard lying down at the base of the tree. As we sat there watching her, we were amazed to see her now very large (yet obviously dependent) son arrive in the area. He was still quite nervous of our vehicles though, and so did not hang around for long.

For the rest of the day and most of the following day, the Matshipiri female was able to enjoy her hard-earned meal in peace.

Thursday 4th November

Late this evening we saw the Emsagwen male leopard walking straight towards the tree which had the Matshipiri female’s kill in it. He’d obviously gotten whiff of the prospect of a free dinner from a long way off. On arriving at the base of the tree he wasted no time in chasing the Matshipiri female and her son (who’d since returned) away from the impala.

This large and intimidating male quickly retrieved the carcass from the tree and proceeded to tuck into what was left of it.

Of course, having been there for two days, it had not escaped the attention of the resident hyenas.

So no sooner had the Emsagwen male settled down to feed when two hyenas came rushing in to alleviate him of his stolen goods. This unexpected attack proved too much for the normally “unflappable” leopard, and he immediately rushed back up the tree.

The carcass was split in half and the two scavengers fled the scene, dragging their spoils along with them.

Friday 5th November

Cheetah coalition by Gareth Greensill

We were spoilt with numerous cat sightings this week. There was an abundance of leopards and lions, but most exciting was the return of the four-male cheetah coalition.

Early this morning we were en route to Clarendon Dam (which is the usual haunt of these rare cats) when we spotted the cheetahs in the distance on Wild Dog Rocks open area. At first glance it looked as though they were just huddling close together, but once we got closer we saw that the four brothers were in fact feeding off a freshly killed adult male impala.

All four displayed classic cheetah feeding behavior, taking turns to lift their heads from time to time in order to scout around for any potential threats such as lions, leopards and hyenas. Unlike other large cats, cheetahs are slightly more tolerant of one another when sharing a catch. So each of the males was able to get a substantial helping of the antelope.

Once they’d finished eating the cheetahs moved off to find a shady tree to rest beneath. When we found them again the next day, they were still full from their meal.

We saw the Tamboti female leopard catch and kill a vervet monkey, which she proceeded to devour in no time at all. And we also found a dead male rhino, which from the look of things had been killed by a rival male rhino.

Some vultures had already discovered the carcass, and fed in those areas where the flesh was accessible to them. There were tracks of a young male leopard around the rhino as well. It looked like he’d inspected it, possibly even fed off it for a while, and then moved off.

You can view the rest of week’s photos on Facebook or Flikr. Click here to download the PDF version of this week’s CyberDiary.

Until next time,

The MalaMala Ranger Team.

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